Home Breaking News House Committee Passes Tax Refund Bill Promising Relief For Families With Children

House Committee Passes Tax Refund Bill Promising Relief For Families With Children


House Committee Passes Tax Refund Bill Promising Relief For Families With Children

INDIANAPOLIS—The House Ways and Means Committee met Tuesday to discuss HB 1001, which would send $225 back to taxpayers and provide various forms of financial relief to families with children.
House Bill 1001 author Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, speaks Wednesday during the House Ways and Means Committee meeting.

The bill was authored by Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, who laid out its contents to begin the meeting.

In addition to those who qualify for a tax refund, Hoosiers who “are not required to file a tax return, can file an affidavit with the Department of Revenue to claim their automatic taxpayer refund,” said Negele.

HB 1001 exempts child diapers from sales tax and raises the dependent child exemption from $1,500 to $1,600, as well as doubles it for the first year.

“We also provide a $3,000 income tax exemption for each child under the age of 19, or under the age of 24 for full-time students, who are adopted,” said Negele. “This exemption would be in addition to the dependent child exemption. It is important to note for the first year, if you have adopted a child, you would have a total of $6,200.”

The bill includes “donated breast milk,” “noninvasive prenatal screening and routine carrier screening,” and “costs of labor and delivery” to the list of things provided through Medicaid.

“It adds additional grant proposal items for the already existing Safety PIN [Protecting Indiana’s Newborns] program, which includes mental health counseling before and after the birth of a child and allows local health departments that receive grants under this section to use the funds to provide financial assistance for individuals seeking contraceptives,” said Negele.

Safety PIN would receive funds through HB 1001 for the 2022 fiscal year along with Real Alternatives, Nurse-Family Partnership, newborn safety devices like Safe Haven Baby Boxes, the Child Care and Development Fund, and more.

Starting public testimony was Chris Johnston, Office of Management and Budget director, and Steve Madden, director of tax policy at the Department of Revenue.

Neither were disparaging of the “laudable goal,” as Madden put it, to expand who receives the $225 refund, but they wanted to bring, in Johnston’s words, “operational awareness.”

Expanding beyond those who filed a tax return would add anywhere from 300,000 to 900,000 people.

Madden said the Department of Revenue is looking at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Family and Social Services Administration as well as outside companies to possibly assist in going through all the affidavits.

Additionally, if there are 500,000 affidavits and 1% are denied and then protested, that would “increase the [department’s] legal caseload five- to tenfold,” according to Madden.

For many of those who testified, the gist was they liked the bill or at least the goals behind it but had some preferences on how it could be improved.

Jessica Fraser, director of the Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute, spoke positively about the Nurse-Family Partnership receiving more money and the tax exemption for diapers, but she asked that more be done to fund child care.

Andy Nielsen, ICAPI’s senior policy analyst, suggested the refund be directed to low-income Hoosiers—a sentiment that came up multiple times during the meeting.

Also, according to Nielsen, “to realize the full tax benefit in this bill, a single Hoosier adopting one child would have to make at least $84,600.”

“So in total, the changes made under this bill would offset more child rearing and/or adoption costs for higher earners as compared to lower taxpayers,” Nielsen said. “So we encourage this committee to create a stronger, fairer, more equitable tax code, and we can do so by adopting a more streamlined adoption credit, child tax credit or other refundable credits.”

Betsy Delgado is senior vice president and chief mission and education officer for Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana, which works with the Nurse-Family Partnership.

Delgado explains NFP’s process as “pairing the pregnant mom with a registered nurse who guides her through her pregnancy, helps her create a healthy and functional environment for her and her baby, and supports her in the baby through the first two years of the child’s life.”

She came in support of the bill—specifically the $10 million for NFP—as it will help it branch out into all 92 Indiana counties, as compared to 42.

A significant number of those who would be able to submit an affidavit to receive the $225 are the elderly, prompting Ambre Marr, legislative director for AARP Indiana, to speak.

“We are pleased to see that House Bill 1001 recognizes the importance of making sure that the $225 relief payment is available for all Hoosiers, including modest income retirees and others who do not file taxes,” Marr said. “However, if you don’t mind, with regard to the affidavit process, we do ask that the Department of Revenue make this process as simple and transparent as possible and—as you heard from many of the questions that you all had earlier—to commit to educating all Hoosiers about the availability of the $225 relief payment, how to access it, fill it out and submit it.”

Marr mentioned the short timeframe—the deadline would be Oct. 1—and some older residents not having access to the internet or the DOR website but said AARP Indiana would work with the DOR to let members know of the opportunity, and she suggested the possibility of having a phone number Hoosiers could call.

The Indiana Family Health Council supports the bill overall but seeks one change, according to its president/CEO, Kristin Adams.

According to its website, the council is “a private, not-for-profit organization that funds 26 reproductive health clinics across the state to make healthcare and education available and accessible to all, including teens, no matter insurance coverage or income level.”

The bill would allow a “local health department that receives a grant under [the Safety PIN program to] use the grant to provide financial assistance to individuals seeking contraceptives.”

The IFHC would rather have “contraceptive access flowing through the health department,” according to Adams.

Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, who isn’t a member of the committee, raised a similar concern.

“I was very excited to see that contraception is included in this bill,” said Errington, delivering the last of the public testimony. “However, I’m concerned that you’re not directing it to the most cost-effective, efficient way of using that money.”

“I believe that rather than the Safety PIN program, using the family planning network in Indiana would be a better route to go,” Errington said.

After public testimony, committee members brought forward a multitude of amendments—enough to surpass the number of people that spoke during the first half.

Only two of the amendments passed—one of which was by the bill’s author.

Negele presented the first amendment, saying it was a “common sense clean up” that would allow a woman under Medicaid to undergo noninvasive pregnancy screening without having to schedule a second appointment.

Rep. Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette, went one for five on amendments but the one that did pass did so unanimously. She successfully proposed an amendment that changed postpartum care under Medicaid from 60 days to a full year.

To back the change, Campbell said, “The risk of an overdose of patients usually occurs between seven and 12 months postpartum.”

Overdose is the main cause of pregnancy-associated deaths in Indiana, according to the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee.

One of the four amendments from Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, attempted to address the issue Adams and Errington each had with the bill.

“It appropriates or reappropriates I’ll say, the $5.5 million that is in this bill from the Safety PIN grants, and it would appropriate it to the Indiana Family Health Council and other organizations capable of providing Indiana residents with access to a range of contraceptive options approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration,” said Pryor.

Pryor had to ask for a Democratic colleague to second the amendment—saying, “they’re falling asleep over here”—but that wasn’t indicative of the support it had.

While only the Democrats on the committee voted in favor of it, the chair, Rep. Timothy Brown, R-Crawfordsville, indicated it could have more backing later down the line.

“This is the first time I’ve kinda heard of the two different avenues to deal with this issue of the contraception,” Brown said. “I still think it’s a debatable issue. Since we have heard from the Safety PIN program back first, I’d like to continue with the wording of the bill and so would not like to change it yet at this time. Let’s continue to have these discussions.”

After all the amendments were brought forward, almost four hours after the beginning of the meeting, the Ways and Means Committee voted 22-0 to pass the bill.